Paul Temple

About the Rat Who Starved to Death in a Cheese Factory

(October 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 29, 28 October 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“Up to a certain point, you talk a lot of horse-sense,” said Johnny to Bill, “and that’s why I listen. But then you go and jump off, and make a lot of statements you can’t prove.”

BILL: What’s on your mind?

JOHNNY: I mean when you say that Roosevelt wants to be imperialistic. Now me, I think Roosevelt’s a right guy. and doesn’t want to horn in on any small countries and step on their necks.

Not a Personal Question

BILL: Let’s get one thing straight first. There’s a difference between “wanting to” and “having to”. I don’t know whether Roosevelt enjoys holding a whip over the Latin American people or not, but I know that he has to. Otherwise the capitalists in this country would starve for profits. Roosevelt WANTS to do his duty to keep capitalism going, so he HAS to be imperialistic.

JOHNNY: Well, I can see what you mean. It’s just as if the boss would like to pay us higher wages, but he can’t because then he wouldn’t rake in a profit for himself.

BILL: Absolutely. Our boss has to exploit us in order to keep his own business making profit Put together all the bosses and you can say: they have to exploit the people of Latin America so that American capitalism can keep on making profits.

JOHNNY: I said I see what you mean. but that doesn’t mean I agree with you. You’ve got to show why Roosevelt has to be imperialistic just because he’s for capitalism.

Starvation in Midst of Plenty

BILL: I’ll do it with two fairy tales, and here’s the first: “Once upon a time there was a rat who starved to death in a cheese factory ...”

JOHNNY: All that shows is that the rat had indigestion. Are you trying to be funny?

BILL:, Not a bit! That’s just what happened, right in this country. This country is the richest in the world and can produce enough food and goods for everybody. But still millions of people who haven’t enough to eat. – Here’s the rest of the fairy tale: “This particular rat found a big hunk of cheese, but it was too big, so he threw it all out of the window and lived on grasshoppers.”

That’s why, when the farmers grow too much wheat, it has to be plowed under while at the same time people don’t have enough bread.

JOHNNY: You explained that once. It’s because the capitalists “will sell the goods to us only if they make a profit, and we don’t get enough in Wages to buy it. I know that’s crazy, but what’s it got to do with being imperialistic?

BILL: Here’s what If the capitalists can’t sell these goods at home in the U.S., they’ve got to sell them to other countries, in order to keep their profit system going. At the same time the capitalists in England and Germany and Japan have got to get rid of their unsold cornflakes and oil and machines too. So all of them compete with each other. The next thing you know, one of them decides that the best way to corner the market is to grab control of the country itself. That’s why all the big countries fight for control of the weak ones, and whoever gets frozen out gets its profit system in a lot of trouble.

Run A Protection Racket

JOHNNY: And you say that the U.S. does that too?

BILL: The U.S. actually controls most of the countries of Latin America, even though they’re supposed to be “independent”. – But there’s something even more important That’s where the second fairy tale comes in. “Once upon a time there was a very rich man who turned into a crook because he had so much money he didn’t know what to do with it all.”

JOHNNY: That sounds as crazy as the rat, but maybe you’ve got a point.

BILL: I certainly have. The American bosses have been piling up mountains of profit out of our labor for over 150 years now. What are they going to do with all the spare capital they’ve hooked?

JOHNNY: That’s easy. They buy a tot of Rolls-Royces, yachts, servants, mansions ...

BILL: – and politicians and mistresses. But then they still have some fat bankrolls left

JOHNNY: They can plow it back into business and re-invest it.

BILL: You mean they’ll build more plants and factories HERE, so that they can make still more goods that can’t be sold here and just He around and clog up the profit system? NO SIR. They take their extra change and ship it down to one of these backward countries and build their factories and oil plants THERE. They get cheaper labor there, and they have a bigger market there, and so they make more money that they don’t know what to do with.

JOHNNY; All right, so besides shipping out the goods they make in factories in this country, they also ship out their extra money to make the factories themselves, abroad.

BILL: See what happens then? Once they’ve got a lot of investments in these weaker countries, they’ve got to worry about PROTECTING them from the natives – out of whom they’re grinding their profits. That’s where the government comes in; it runs the protection racket for the bosses. That’s another reason why it has to horn in on the small countries; and if these countries don’t like the idea, it has to step on their necks.

JOHNNY: I still don’t believe Roosevelt would do that.

BILL: His only way out is to abolish the profit system here in the U.S. Then the food and goods and capital that they now have to ship out of the country, in order to make a profit, can go to the masses of American workers in order to make a profit can go to the masses of American workers in order to feed and clothe us better. But you won’t catch Roosevelt betraying his own class that way. No – he’s hanging on to capitalism, and capitalism is hanging on to its imperialistic control over other peoples. That’s why fighting against imperialism is the job of OUR OWN CLASS, the workers.

Last updated on 28.10.2012